Do I need a written contract with my father's care facility?

Question:

My father is 91 years old and legally blind. He has recently moved into a care facility -- actually, a private house where a woman cares for the elderly. I pay by the month and we have a verbal understanding of what is included: board, care, transportation to doctors, and other things. It seems like a nice place, but should I make the arrangement more formal?

Answer:

Ninety-one-year-old fathers are not the only ones who can't remember things. If you and the caretaker ever get into a spat, both of you will remember only what you want to remember about that verbal agreement.

The best way to keep the relationship on an even keel and make sure your father gets the best care is to write your mutual expectations down. This won't require long and expensive visits to a lawyer, or thinking up every possible twist and turn of events.

Simply organize your thoughts on paper and come up with a list of things you want the caretaker to do. Then talk them over with the caretaker and create an Elder Care Agreement for both of you to sign. As long as what you write down is reasonable and straightforward, the caretaker shouldn't object to signing. Consider the following items:

  • responsibilities of the caregiver
  • wage or salary
  • payment schedule, and
  • other benefits (transportation, etc.).

For a little drafting help, Nolo has anĀ eForm available for purchase; it's titled, not so coincidentally, "Elder Care Agreement."

But an agreement is worth no more than the paper it's printed on unless everyone is abiding by its terms. After you sign the agreement, drop by the home at various times to make sure your dad is being taken care of as you agreed. Even if you always find everything in order, your visits will send a strong signal to the caregiver that you care about your dad's treatment.

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